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The City Journals

Brothers create adaptive jump-rope device for school STEM fair

May 17, 2018 03:38PM ● By Julie Slama

Community members judge Viewmont Elementary’s STEM fair, which focused on engineering projects. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

Viewmont Principal Matt Nelson wanted to help one of his students meet the jump rope requirements in physical education, but he wasn’t sure how. He met with the PE teacher to see if they could brainstorm a solution for James Sander, a first-grader who was born without fingers on his right hand. 

Little did he know that James and his older brother, Craig, already were testing an idea they created for the school’s engineering fair.

“I’m so impressed that they saw a real-world problem and worked together to find a solution,” Nelson said. “That’s so invaluable. Our students engaged in identifying problems and through creating solutions, they’ve gained confidence and sparked their interests in engineering, math and science. This is one of my favorite things to see.”

Viewmont Elementary’s engineering fair invited all students, kindergarten through sixth grade, to enter projects into the school fair. They were given a packet to help them understand the process of defining their problem, brainstorming solutions and working together to create a working prototype.

Kindergartner Willow Hockwell noticed two ducklings getting caught in the grate of a storm drain and wanted to help.

“They were so little, they just flowed away with the water and got caught,” she said.

With her project, “Save the Ducleengs” (sic), she came up with a screen to place over the street grates and tested it with rubber ducks. 

“I thought it would work and it did,” she said.

Fifth-grader Lillian Weaver said that at times, she has noticed people get fidgety and can’t sit still in class. 

“Fidget spinners aren’t allowed, so I wanted something that could help,” she said.

Lillian’s “Footy Figyt” is a solution. After filling balloons with kidney beans and cotton, she placed a bungee cord around it and stretched it across the lower part of her desk. She said it serves as a massager.

“It is like a big stress ball, but it’s fun and relaxing,” she said. “And it works.”

Fifth-grader Danica Spencer teamed up with her neighbor, fourth-grader David Larsen, to create the “No More Mess” organizer. 

The two created a wooden desk organizer featuring a drawer to store items and a ramp for pencils to roll down for quick and easy use.

“Teachers always hate messy desks and we wanted to fix that problem at school,” Danica said. “We had to make sure it wasn’t too big or too expensive, but still allowed enough space for supplies.”

Using a measuring tape, saw and superglue, David said that their prototype worked.

“With the right measurements, we didn’t have to use the ‘rolley things’ for our drawers,” he said. “We had three other ideas at first, but we wanted to have a problem that we could fix.”

Fixing the entrance to a tree house door was the decision Cash and Christian Koontz determined to be their engineering project. 

“The door used to fall on our heads or pinch our fingers,” kindergartner Christian said. 

Second-grader Cash said that now with a brick used as a pulley, it slows down the door. 

“The brick slows it down, but not so much as it still closes the door,” he said. “I liked figuring out what to do to make it work.”

These were among the 21 students who turned in projects. At judging time, they explained their working solutions and answered questions. 

Four Award of Excellence trophies were presented to students Sophie Nelson; Alexia Scheid and Bailey Mcelroy; Dallin Thompson and Brett Wood; and Paige Obrien and Claire Mcdonough.

The top award, along with a stuffed Eagle mascot, went to the Sanders brothers, who created the “Jump Roping James,” a device using a bike tube, brace and zip ties to allow James to use a jump rope. The idea came to the two student-engineers from when James used a bike tube as a way to hold onto a canoe paddle.

“It’s flexible but still stiff enough to hold the jump rope at the same angle,” said fourth-grader Craig. “We already had the items at our house, so it didn’t cost us much and wouldn’t cost much to be available for other people who need adaptive sporting equipment.” 

James, who has used the device three times, said that it worked and it didn’t hurt.

“I tried it out and it’s comfortable,” he said. “Now I can jump rope like all my friends.”